Story last updated at 2:32 p.m. Thursday, December 5, 2002

Council reviews city manager hiring process
by Carey James
Staff Writer

The Homer City Council spent several hours Monday working on the hiring process it would use to find a new city manager.

At a recent council meeting, several members, including Rick Ladd and Ray Kranich, voiced their concerns about the current hiring process for the city manager, saying that including the public in the process is a paramount concern.

But the council seemed divided over what level of public involvement would best serve the elected body while hiring the replacement of Ron Drathman, whose resignation is effective Jan. 29.

While some council members supported the idea of creating a community hiring committee, others said the best way to receive feedback from the public is to have a binder filled with all the resumes available to the public, along with a ranking form similar to the one the council will use for the first screening or resumes.

"That way, essentially, the whole community is the hiring committee," said Councilwoman Rose Beck.

Ladd, however, said if the council's intent is to move toward a city management that involves the public more, a community hiring committee would be a step in the right direction.

"(The committee would make) a nonbinding recommendation," said Ladd. "I like the idea of involving the public. I think the public should have that opportunity."

Mayor Jack Cushing, however, had concerns about the proposed committee, wondering if the process would use up precious time while achieving the same final outcome.

"I'm questioning whether we need a committee at all," he said. "We were elected to do something, for crying out loud."

The initial suggestion of each council member selecting a person to sit on the proposed committee also drew fire from some, who said the committee would not be fully representational of the community. Beck said if a committee were created, members should be selected from a variety of interest groups.

The council will continue the debate over the public hiring committee at this Monday's meeting when a memorandum introduced by Ladd and Kranich will be revisited.

Also debated during the lunch meeting was what criteria the council would use to rank the initial stack of resumes.

City Personnel Officer Sheri Hobbs presented the council with a potential set of ranking criteria, but the council was concerned about the weight some items, such as an education degree, had versus others, like on-the-job experience.

In addition, the council decided to come up with a list of goals of the city to present to the finalists. Some council members interpreted those goals as projects, while others said the goals should be more philosophical.

Kranich said putting down projects as the goals of the city council would encourage the same project-oriented management style he said is currently in place.

"I don't think that's what we want. If anything, that's what we don't want," he said, adding that he sees goals such as more community involvement and more direct involvement between staff and council as crucial.

The council further discussed what interview question it could ask potential candidates.

Councilman Doug Stark asked if members could ask questions about candidates' personal history, such as how long they have been married, or how many times they have wed.

"When do we determine their personal stability?" he asked.

Hobbs responded that such questions couldn't be asked.

"You cannot ask any of those questions. That's discriminatory," Hobbs said. "You should be hiring based on work history, not personal life."

The council also discussed whether to pay for travel of the final candidates' spouses. While some council members were unsure about absorbing the expense, others said they believed it is important for both family members to see the town.

"Just remember," Stark said, "it's usually the females that don't like Alaska."

Beck reminded Stark that it could be a woman who's applying.

Hobbs said the city had received around 40 requests for application packets, with only seven applications returned. She said, typically, most applications are returned three or four days before closing. Traditionally, Hobbs said, 40 requests generate around 20 to 25 returned applications.

The application deadline for city manager hopefuls is Dec. 16.

Carey James can be reached at ae/i>